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Controversy trails NBC’s revocation of Silverbird TV, AIT, 50 others’ licenses

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Controversy is currently trailing the revocation of the operational licenses of Silverbird TV, AIT, Raypower FM, and Rhythm FM amongst others over the alleged failure to renew their licenses by the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC on Friday 19th, 2022.

Reacting to National Broadcasting Commission, NBC’s decision, the Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, expressed worry over the shutting down of over 50 broadcast stations by the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, for allegedly failing to pay their renewal license fees. 

According to its President, Mustapha Isah the action, if not reversed, would lead to the loss of thousands of jobs in a country where jobs are scarce.”

“NGE is worried because media houses, which played and continue to play a key role in the nurturing and development of democracy can’t just be off air no matter the reasons. 

“While the Guild is not against broadcast stations fulfilling their financial obligations to NBC, we note that the current harsh operating environment that has crippled every sector in our nation was not taken into account by NBC before its action.

“Currently, it is difficult for private stations to import broadcast equipment due to the high exchange rate. We are all aware of the high operational cost, including the cost of diesel to power their generating sets”, the NGE stated.

The Guild added that several broadcast stations are just managing to survive amid the high competition in the industry following the licensing of hundreds of more stations by NBC. 

The NGE called for a review of the NBC Act to increase the lifespan of a broadcast license from five to at least 10 years. 

The body of editors also advocated a reduction of the license fees because several broadcast stations now operates in the country, saying, for instance, the Lagos zone alone now has close to 50 radio stations. 

The NGE tasked the NBC to enter into dialogue with the affected stations to restructure the debts owed and work out a convenient payment period to ensure their survival. 

“A caring government should be more concerned about the possibility of job losses than revenue generation. After all, one of the functions of NBC is working for the survival and the development of the broadcast industry.”

“A critical stakeholder in the nation’s democratic space cannot be shut out at this critical moment of our democracy, especially when the country is preparing for the 2023 general election.”

The NGE, therefore urged the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria and the Independent Broadcasting Association of Nigeria to enter into a dialogue with the NBC to find a lasting solution to this recurring issue of license renewal fees, which often lead to threats of a shutdown.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, has described Friday’s revocation of the operational licenses of the affected media houses over alleged failure to renew their licenses by the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, as hasty.

According to NUJ National President, Mr. Chris Isiguzo in a statement Friday: “The decision today by Industry Regulator, the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, to revoke the licenses of 52 broadcast stations nationwide over-indebtedness to the commission was ill-advised.

‘The affected stations, according to NBC are said to owe arrears of license fees amounting to N2.6 billion since 2015.

“Although the Director General of NBC, Malam Balarabe Ilelah claimed that this development had no political motives, we insist that the action was ill timed and reckless.

“It should be noted that this wholesale revocation of licenses at this critical time of insecurity in the country appears to be a decision taken without careful prior deliberation, consultation, or counsel. 

“While we regret the inability of these broadcast stations to fulfill their obligations to NBC, because of dwindling resources, we caution against such large scale clampdown of broadcast stations in disregard to security issues and the attendant consequence. We cannot afford the unpleasant outcome of such a media blackout at this time. 

“We call on NBC to exercise more restraint on this issue in consideration of national security and allow for more dialogue and consultation to find a better way of dealing with the situation,” NUJ added.

Media practitioner, Moji Danisa

A radio Licence in the UK costs 75 pounds for 5 years. Here in Nigeria, you would cough out over 25m and bribe twice that to start an operation. Then you begin to pay yearly fees. For television, we are talking billions to get a license and then a N500m fee yearly for private broadcast stations. The government is nothing but gangsters and haters of a free press. Where they subsidize their medium of propaganda, they stifle the only voice that can oppose, which is a free press. The overhead and running cost of a TV station is already humongous. Now, when salaries are not paid, people blame the stations. Another point to note is that these stations no longer have good content besides in-house political shows. You know why because content creators are asked to pay for content when it should be the other way round. Do you blame the stations? Before NBC came with its oppressive licensing fee, us, content creators were paid by TV stations who in turn derive their revenue from advertisers. TV is dying in Nigeria because of the government high handedness. Now, everyone is doing DSTV, Netflix, etc, and even DSTV, TSTV has also been squeezed and spinned by the taxmen, and now foreign Netflix is having the day as well as YouTube and other such hubs.

The glaring truth is that Buhari’s economy has killed and shrunk many businesses so advertisers have become few and in between. We know that as a fact. Stations run on diesel 24/7. Equipment doesn’t come cheap, and maintenance isn’t any cheaper, especially with Buhari’s mismanagement of the Naira. The light APC promised, wey am? Anyway, I’ve just tried to give you a general brief of why I think Buhari and his NBC, stink!

Reacting to the revocation of the operational licenses of the affected media houses, Kemi Yesufu a journalist said successive governments in Nigeria hate a free press. A government like Buhari’s which practically rode into power on the back of the media, the mainstream media, and social media probably hates the media the most. 

Some of us predicted that Buhari would be an all-around disaster and we peaked early in shouting that the man will leave Nigeria tattered and poor as never before. 

Until we have democrats as leaders and we restructure Nigeria to make the President less of a stumbling tin god, we may never get someone who understands or promotes press freedom. 

The media needs some kind of bailout and assistance, even writing off a percentage of the debt owed to NBC could be part of the assistance given to the media. 

But of course, the country is a complex corrupt system, an ugly big swamp run by thoughtless leaders, people who hardly think out of the box and are educated for nothing. 

They are quick to brandish laws, and archaic methods of doing things but they are never innovative. Those in the NBC especially their King Kong DG are typical of Nigerian leaders.

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